Flashback Friday: Sinking of Edmund Fitzgerald occurred 44 years ago

Updated: November 15, 2019 02:17 PM

ABC footage seen above is of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior in 1989. Starting at the 0:45 mark, a clip from David Cromwell's documentary "She Was the Fitz," a TV 13 Special Production.

Regarded the largest ship to roam the Great Lakes at the time of its christening in 1958, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald sank in eastern Lake Superior 44 years ago this week.


The 729-foot-long freighter sank in a massive storm on Nov. 10, 1975. According to the Associated Press, many of the crew members had ties to northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. All 29 crew members died.

The Minnesota Historical Society says the boat was built by Great Lakes Engineering Works in River Rouge, Michigan. The ship was well known to both casual and serious ship watchers. The bulk cargo vessel was designed to carry taconite pellets (a type of iron ore) from mines near Duluth to iron works in Detroit and Toledo.

Remembrance marks anniversary of wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald

The final voyage of the ship began on Nov. 9, 1975, when it left Superior, Wisconsin loaded with iron ore. The Edmund Fitzgerald suddenly sank during a storm when it was around 17 miles from Whitefish Bay in Lake Superior the following day. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the accident was caused by "the sudden massive flooding of the cargo hold due to the collapse of one or more hatch covers."

The storm's ferocity increased with winds gusting over 80 miles per hour. The captain of the ship reported having difficulties during the storm, yet no distress signals were sent. To this day, no person on the ship at the time of the incident has been found.

Later, when the wreck was found, it was discovered that the ship had broken in two. It still sits on the bottom of Lake Superior, 530 feet deep, according to historical reports.

Each year, staff at the Split Rock Lighthouse on the North Shore toll a bell 30 times — once for each man who lost his life in the wreck and a final time for all lost mariners. The ceremony is the only time each year when visitors can climb the tower after dark and see the lit beacon, according to the Associated Press.

The wreck was immortalized by Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot's famous song.

Connect with KSTP

Join the conversation on our social media platforms. Share your comments on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.


Tommy Wiita

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


Pregnant woman dies, baby delivered after shooting in Minneapolis

Injured Waseca officer marks 6 months since shooting, continues long recovery

St. Paul police looking for man who shot at driver with child in the car